HIV/AIDS: top five facts
Paul G under CC licence

HIV/AIDS: top five facts

By Steph Haase December 27, 12:03 pm
HIV and AIDS – it's the scariest of all STDs. The virus damages your immune system so badly that eventually the body isn’t able to fight other infections. And you die. But there are ways to protect yourself and others.
HIV or AIDS- what's in the name?

HIV is the name of the virus that causes the disease AIDS. It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and AIDS stands for Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. You only develop AIDS in the last stages of an HIV infection. This may take several years.

AIDS was formerly known as GRID, or Gay Related Immuno-Deficiency, but it has been long since discovered that it can affect anyone, and not just gay people. People who are infected by the virus are called HIV-positive or seropositive. They may look perfectly healthy. It’s only in the last stages of AIDS that people may look very sick.

How can I protect myself from it?

The HIV virus is passed on through blood and other bodily fluids. You can get it by having any type of sex without a condom with someone who is infected. Those having anal or vaginal sex are especially at risk, because there is a higher chance of small tears that can bleed. So to protect yourself (or others, if you are HIV positive), use condoms at all times when having sex and know your status!

There are also ways you can get the virus that aren’t through sex. Drug users sharing needles are at risk. Also, pregnant women or mothers who are breastfeeding can pass on the virus to their babies. But you can’t get infected from kissing (at least, the chances are incredibly tiny), mosquitos bites, sharing a meal with someone, toilet seats, shaking hands or a curse.

Read Also: HIV causes, symptoms, testing, & treatment

Testing and treatment

If you are afraid that you might have been exposed to the virus, you should get tested. Many countries have free Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) facilities, but any GP, hospital or health clinic you trust should be able to assist you. Or use Love Matters Kenya's clinic finder found in the top righthand corner of our website. Keep in mind that it may take up to three months to have a reaction showing in your blood.

Even though AIDS is incurable, there are medications you can take called antiretroviral drugs that allow patients to lead a longer life in better health and with less suffering. You may also need to take the meds if you may have been exposed to the virus recently, for example, if a condom breaks. This is called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). You may be able to avoid infection. Depending on where you live, the availability of the meds may be an issue though.

Numbers worldwide

Currently, 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV – over 10 million in Asia, and a massive 25 million in Sub-Saharan Africa. There, young women are four time more likely to be infected than young men. Tragically, while the availability of antiretroviral medication in the rest of the world is pretty good, in some of those countries, less than 10 per cent of those infected can get the drugs. In some countries in southern Africa, as many as one in four adults is seropositive.

There are some groups worldwide who are more at risk of getting the infection: sex workers, people who inject drugs and men who have sex with men.

What do I need to do if I'm positive?

You need to take good care of your body. Eat and live healthily and make sure you don't stress your immune system. Make sure that you take care of any bleeding wounds you may have. Schedule regular appointments with your health provider to monitor your status. If you are on meds, make sure that you take them as prescribed by your doctor. There are mobile phone apps that can help you remember to take your medications at the right time.

You might also want to consider counseling to help you cope with your disease. And while of course it is important to take care of yourself, you must also ensure that you keep others safe. Use a condom every time you have sex.


Are you already infected? Do you have any tips for positive living with HIV? Leave a comment below or join our Facebook discussions.

Did you learn something new?

Hi Michael, thank you for your question! The best and most accurate way to find out if you are HIV-positive is to take a test. HIV is a so-called lentivirus, which means it takes a very long time for signs to show themselves. It takes 8 years on average. But in this time, you can infect others, so if someone thinks they could have HIV, they should get tested as soon as possible. Many people who are infected have flu-like symptoms 2 to 4 weeks after they have gotten infected. Fever, throat infections and rashes are common then. However, this is not enough to diagnose HIV! Or to say that you are not infected if you didn't have something like the flu. I hope this answers your question!
Collo, Having unprotected sex with your partner who is HIV positive exposes you to the virus and you run the risk of getting infected. Aside from blood, other body fluids also contain HIV including vaginal fluids and semen. While this is something that happens, where one partner is infected and the other is not, continued exposure eventually leads to the HIV negative partner being infected. There are however options that you can use to prevent this from happening including the consistent use of condoms and PrEP. Check out this article;-
Dear Don Sam, I'm so sorry to hear about your situation! The thing you have to do now is get tested for HIV and other STDs as soon as possible. Have you always used condoms when having sex? The testing might be difficult for you, but it's best to know your status, rather than being stressed about not knowing. Let us know how it goes. Good luck.
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